The Republican advantage in registered voters in Colorado is disintegrating, according to numbers compiled by Colorado Public Radio. The trend seems to favor moderate Democrats in statewide races and could affect the 2008 U.S. presidential election.Numbers assembled by Dan Meyers, the editor of KCFR’s Public Insight Network and a producer and host of the show Colorado Matters, reveal that between December 2003 and December 2007, the margin of registered Republicans over registered Democrats shrank by 57,430. In the same period, the margin of registered Republicans over registered unaffiliated voters shrank by a whopping 123,375.
Republicans still enjoy a lead over Democratic and unaffiliated voters, Meyers said. But the GOP is currently registering new voters at a much slower rate than either of its rivals.
In the last four months of 2007, said Meyers, “Democrats are adding new voters at almost twice the rate of Republicans. And unaffiliateds are adding new voters at almost three times the rate of Republicans.”
KCFR began airing news reports Monday about the findings.
Meyers started looking into voting data after anecdotal information from Colorado Public Radio’s Public Insight Network suggested political dissatisfaction. The Public Insight Network solicits reactions from regular people on all kinds of issues, but it is voluntary and not statistically valid.
“What we saw from the Public Insight Network was dissatisfaction on the part of some with the leading political parties,” Meyers said. “The Public Insight Network is not a scientific survey. It made me curious.”
The voter registration numbers Meyers crunched came from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. The startling increases in new Democratic and unaffiliated registrations came from three sources, Meyers said. They came from Coloradans who just reached voting age or registered for the first time; they came from out-of-state voters who moved to Colorado; or they came from people switching parties. There is no statewide breakdown for how many people fell into each category, Meyers said.
Still, the number of registered Republicans in the state actually shrank from 1,044,027 in December 2005, said Meyers, to 1,008,541 in December 2007, a loss of 35,486 voters.
Unaffiliated registrants, meanwhile, increased from 961,018 in December 2005 to 994,575 in December 2007, an increase of 33,557. Registered Democrats, by comparison, only increased from 871,027 in 2005 to 875,650 in 2007.
However new Democratic and unaffiliated voters arrived, the numbers spell continued bad news for Republicans. Democrats still have the fewest registered voters in the three main voter categories – Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated – yet Democratic candidates won the 2004 U.S. Senate race and the 2006 governor’s race. The Dems also took over control of both houses of the General Assembly in 2004.
With the U.S. presidency and an open U.S. Senate seat on the line in 2008, the Democrats seem well-positioned, based on the registration numbers. Dems and unaffiliateds registering at two and three times the rate of Republicans is especially problematic for the GOP.
But the numbers show something else. Democrats are most likely to win if they stick to the strategy adopted by Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter. That strategy can be summed up in a single word:
Salazar and Ritter have enraged some of their party’s base with their moderate positions on issues. The Democratic presidential nominee will need that same image of moderation to have a chance to win Colorado as the national Democratic party hopes to do for the first time in more than a decade.
For the same reason, Democratic Senate candidate Mark Udall must battle every attempt to brand him “a Boulder liberal.”
On the other hand, the voter registration numbers bode even worse for Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, a doctrinaire right-winger.
Based on the numbers Meyers crunched, it looks like satisfying either major party’s base may not be as critical as running to the middle from the start.
While it seems to be moving toward Blue State status, Colorado remains defiantly purple.
Nobody from either major party wins a statewide race in Colorado without pulling in a major number of unaffiliated voters.
There are nearly 90,000 more of those unaffiliated voters today than there were in 2003. And they are still very fickle.